Honeybee Engineering

Honeybee Engineering
Bees are master engineers of the storing of dense fluids. Their fluid is honey, and they store it in a way that shows excellent honeybee engineering.

Worker bees gorge on honey and excrete slivers of wax. Other workers take that wax and position and mold it into a column of six-sided cells. The bees cluster to keep the temperature of the wax at 35 degrees C (95 degrees F) so that it’s firm but malleable. Each wax partition is less than .1 mm thick with a tolerance of .002 mm. The cell walls must be at a 120-degree angle in relation to each other to make a lattice of regular hexagons.

There are only three regular polygons which pack together snugly without leaving gaps–equilateral triangles, squares, and regular hexagons. The perimeter of a hexagonal cell that encloses an area is less than that of a square or a triangular cell making it the most economical shape. Using the same quantity of wax, hexagonal cells can hold more honey than square or triangular cells. Mathematicians have tried other options, such as using curved sides or a mixture of polygons. They have confirmed that curved polygons could not do as well as straight-line hexagons. Mathematicians can’t beat honeybee engineering.

How do the bees keep the honey in the cells? They tip the cells upward at an angle of 13 degrees from the horizontal. That is precisely the angle needed to stop the honey from dripping out. There is one more problem. How can the bees seal off the bottom of the columns? A flat bottom would not do. Bees construct the base with three, four-sided diamond shapes that meet in a point. Two rows of cells are placed back-to-back and offset so that they interlock. With the cells backing up each other, only one layer of wax acts as the bottom for both cells. Mathematicians have proven that the angles of the diamond-shaped cell bottoms (109.5 and 70.5 degrees) give the maximum volume for storage.

It’s difficult to believe that the honeycomb structure is an accident or the final product of trial and error. Mistakes are usually lethal or at least result in a loss of vital energy resources. Honeybee engineering has fascinated and amazed philosophers and mathematicians since the time of ancient Greece. We think the honeybee engineers learned the principles of structural math from the Master Engineer.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018

Higher Criticism and the Bible

Higher Criticism and the Bible
We often deal with people who criticize the Bible for one reason or another. However, some scholars study the Bible and apply what is called biblical criticism. They may be practicing lower criticism (also known as textual criticism) in which they work to determine the correct text of ancient documents. These scholars work with copies of ancient manuscripts of both biblical and non-biblical material to attempt to determine what the original documents said. There is also a method called higher criticism in which scholars deal with the authorship, dating, and unity of manuscripts.

There have been numerous instances over the years in which criticism of these two types has exposed frauds. In the fifteenth century, for example, higher criticism proved that a document called “Donation of Constantine” was not genuine. The events described in the manuscript turned out to be events that happened hundreds of years after the original document was supposed to have been written. Obviously, “donation” was a fraud. In this way, higher criticism can expose frauds and identify claims about manuscripts that could not be true.

At the beginning of the twentieth-century furious debates raged over higher criticism because many viewed it as a threat to the Bible and Christian faith. In our day it has become fashionable to use higher criticism to claim that the Bible is not the inspired Word of God. I confront skeptics in my lectures who use higher and lower criticism to attack the material I am presenting. We need to take a brief look at biblical criticism to understand it and to be prepared to defend the faith.

Higher criticism has sometimes been used to attempt to prove that one book or another in the Bible is fraudulent. In 1805, for example, a scholar by the name of W. M. DeWette tried to prove that Deuteronomy was not written by Moses but by Jerusalem priests in the time of Josiah. DeWette’s assertion was widely accepted until archaeologists proved that many parts of Deuteronomy reflect a period earlier than that of Josiah. In the nineteenth century, it was popular to claim that all ancient biblical manuscripts must be assumed fraudulent unless proven true. Archaeology has mostly removed that negative attitude, but it is not uncommon to run into it even today.

Many proponents of higher criticism attempt to use style as a means of proving a biblical manuscript fraudulent. A good example of this is first and second Peter. The styles of these two books are very different. Why would that be since they are supposedly both written by Peter? Subject matter can make a huge difference in the style of writing. Gilbert Highet of Columbia University pointed out that Cicero had at least six different styles depending upon what he was writing. There is even the possibility that Peter wrote one book in Greek and the other in Aramaic which would automatically produce significant differences in style.

There are questions about the Bible that higher criticism may help us solve. The Bible designates Moses as the author of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy but does not identify the author of Genesis. Jesus identifies Moses as the author of the same four books but makes no mention of the author of Genesis. If higher criticism could verify the authorship of Genesis, it would be a welcomed contribution to our understanding.

However, instead, some scholars have attempted to prove that the first and second chapters of Genesis were written by different authors who disagreed with each other. They ignore the fact that those chapters were written for different purposes and to show different relationships. Higher criticism scholars have also raised questions about the authorship and dates of some of the Psalms and Hebrews. We must remember that higher criticism is the work of people who have preconceived ideas and prejudices that affect their conclusions.

Higher criticism is at best a tool to help us understand some concepts related to God’s Word. If we believe that the Holy Spirit was active and that the Bible was God-breathed, we will not be shaken by the winds of modernism that roar through the religious world today. Excellent and open-minded scholarship has, over the centuries, confirmed and supported the concept that the Bible is the Word of God. Letting the Word speak to us is the doorway to a closer walk with God.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Why Poisonous Animals?

Why Poisonous Animals? Eastern Coral Snake
There are 2700 known species of snakes on this planet. Of all those, 412 species, or 15.2%, are poisonous. Five hundred thousand people are bitten every year, and 40,000 of them die. People are afflicted by poisonous lizards (two varieties), frogs, salamanders, and a variety of toxic insects. This brings up the question of why poisonous animals exist if a loving God made all things.

If you or someone you know has suffered an attack by one of these poisonous animals, you know that even when it is not deadly, it’s still a very unpleasant experience. The skeptic and even the non-skeptic is moved to ask why God would create a reptile or amphibian that could cause such terrible discomfort to humans. Why should an innocent child die because of picking up a pretty ribbon that turned out to be a coral snake?

If you have experienced an encounter, no canned explanation will make the pain and loss go away. But can we make any sense of why poisonous animals exist?

We must first begin by recognizing that God may not have created these animals as they are today. God did not create many animals (dog and cattle breeds for example) as they are today. They have changed over the years. It is possible that the same is true of poisonous animals, and their original ancestors may not have been deadly. However, the complexity of the poison systems in reptiles and amphibians seems to make this explanation a little imaginative, if not impossible. Even if true, it does not remove God’s awareness of the situation.

A better answer to this question of why poisonous animals exist lies in the wisdom and planning of God. The Bible says we can know God exists and see His wisdom by looking at the creation. (See Romans 1: 19-23; Psalms 19: 1.) The more we learn about the creation, the more we see God’s design.

One thing we have come to understand is the need for balance in ecosystems. We know that all living things serve a purpose in their natural setting. Animals and insects eat plants which keep the plants from crowding themselves out. Carnivorous animals keep the plant-eaters from wiping out their food supply. Because animals do not fear death as we do, the system is not as cruel and as callous as some would have us believe. In a balanced system, things generally function smoothly and efficiently.

One of the critical factors in maintaining balance is the survival of reasonable numbers of all species. Most reptiles and amphibians are soft-bodied, slow, and generally vulnerable. Camouflage protects some, but the poisonous glands of others are necessary to do the job. Not only does this protect that animal, but any animals that look similar. Poison also helps the animals catch their food. Rats and mice are the primary food source of many snakes, but without the venom, the snakes could never catch them. Very few snakes or poisonous animals of any kind will attack a human. Most bites occur when a person molests a poisonous animal. The obvious purpose of the poison is defense and obtaining food. Accidents do happen, but the poison was not given as a device to be used on humans.

Another important factor is that poisonous animals provide medicines that we cannot secure from any other source. Medicine from snake venom stops the agents which cause rheumatoid arthritis. There are many other examples of ways science has found to use the poisons from animals.

We can see that there are reasons why poisonous animals exist. Venomous animals do not prove that God didn’t thoughtfully and intelligently design the creation. We sometimes have to look a little more closely to see the ultimate wisdom of the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

How Pharaoh’s Heart Was Hardened

How Pharaoh's Heart Was Hardened
Yesterday we began to consider Exodus 4:21 which says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. What did God mean when He told Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart? Can we see how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened?

Pharaoh was a political leader whose kingdom was under siege. He would obviously be on an emotional and intellectual roller coaster. God simply allowed Pharaoh to see the cost of letting the slaves go. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart by strengthening his resolve as a political leader to realize what was happening. It made Pharaoh strong intellectually and emotionally, but that doesn’t mean he was a robot with no choice in the matter. He would not want his people to see him as a weak, condescending ruler giving in to a bunch of slaves over things his own court magicians could do. At least in the beginning, Pharaoh would become strong, hard, and determined to stop Moses. That is how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.

Let me give you a personal parallel. Many years ago my wife Phyllis and I made arrangements to adopt a child. After a month or so, we saw that the child had many congenital problems including blindness, cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, a form of muscular dystrophy, and mental retardation. Our awareness of all of this came one step at a time beginning with blindness and ending seven years later with a diagnosis of muscular dystrophy and schizophrenia. By law, the adoption agency was obligated to take the child back. However, we could choose to go ahead with the adoption.

My heart and my wife’ heart softened and hardened. Mine more than hers. My atheist parents tried everything to make us give up the child. They even threatened the agency with a lawsuit if they didn’t forcibly take him from us. My fellow teachers almost universally told me I would be crazy to keep the child. Close friends showed me what keeping him would mean financially, socially, and professionally. My heart was hardened to the point that one afternoon I put him in the car seat and prepared to return him to the adoption agency.

I started the car and then decided to pray about what I was doing. At that point, a Christian brother walked up to the car and began to talk about what might be possible. Could this baby be a messenger to the blind? Could I walk down the street 20 years in the future, see a blind man and wonder if it was the child I gave up. I realized my heart had been hardened. It was not hardened by God, but by all of the world that surrounded me.

Pharaoh’s case was the reverse of mine. His heart was softened by the plagues that challenged his power and political position. God had allowed him to see the cost of giving in to Moses and thus giving in to God. That was how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. God hardened him intellectually and emotionally to make him strong in the eyes of his people. Pharaoh could have avoided the calamity of hard-heartedness. But selfishness, greed, and power struggles make people do foolish things. Both the Pharaoh and I eventually had our hard hearts softened to the point of doing the right thing. But the cost was high for both of us.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

God Hardened Pharaoh’s Heart

God Hardened Pharaoh's Heart
One of the interesting studies of the Old Testament is the account of the Egyptian Pharaoh, Moses, and God. In Exodus 4:21 we read that, “The Lord said to Moses when you go to return to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in your hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.” What does it mean that God hardened Pharaoh’s Heart?

There are numerous cases throughout the Bible where the hardening of the heart is an issue. Is God making Pharaoh a robot with no choice but to make the catastrophic decision not to allow the Israelites to leave? Does God make a person’s heart hard and then send them to hell because of their hard heart? How can that picture be harmonized with the concept of a loving and kind God who wants everyone to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). If God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, what does that mean and how did it happen?

Like a lot of questions about God and the Bible, we can answer this at least in part by a careful study of the meaning of the biblical words. The first word we need to understand is the word “heart” which is the Hebrew leb or lebab. In 1 Samuel 25:37 we read about a man named Nabal, and we are told his heart died within him and he became as a stone. In 2 Samuel 18:14 we see Joab thrusting three darts through the heart of Absalom. In 2 Kings 9:24 Jehu shoots an arrow at Jehoram and hits him in the heart. The word heart is used in a physical sense 29 times. However, most biblical uses of the word “heart” do not involve the organ that beats in our chest.

Proverbs 23:7 gives us a different use: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. He tells you to eat and drink, but his heart is not with you.” The Bible uses the word heart 257 times referring to personality characteristics, and 166 times it refers to states of consciousness. First Samuel 1:8 says, “Hannah, why do you weep, and why is your heart grieved?” Heart refers to intellectual activities such as in 1 Kings 3:9 where God gave Solomon an understanding heart. We find the word used 195 times referring to volition or purpose. In 1 Samuel 2:35 we read, “And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in my heart and my mind.”

The other keyword to understand in this discussion is the word “hardened” which is the Hebrew chazaq which means “to make strong.” Normally this word describes things that make us insensitive. Hebrews 3:13 tells us that we can “be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,” and verse 8 and 4:7 indicate humans choose to do the hardening. Job says he was hardened in sorrow in Job 6:10. Daniel 5:20 talks about a king’s heart being lifted up and his mind hardened by pride. Psalms 95:8 indicates we can harden our own hearts and references the Israelites in the wilderness as an example. Nehemiah talks about Israel hardening their necks and their rebellion against God.

So what does Exodus mean when it says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart? We will examine that question tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Canyonlands Field Trip Purpose

Canyonlands Field Trip

Today is the final day of the 2018 DOES GOD EXIST? Canyonlands Tour. The pictures are of Bryce Canyon and Alan Doty who has served as a guide along with John Clayton. They have been making these educational tours for several years. The purpose of the Canyonlands field trip is not just entertainment. We want to help people understand the history of how God has crafted the Earth He created to make it a suitable home for people. We also want to show that science and faith are friends, not enemies. This video is from an earlier journey to the Canyonlands. We share it here so that John can tell you why he believes these trips are important.

You can watch the video series John mentions by using THIS LINK.
We also invite you to see our two previous posts about the Canyonlands Field Trip HERE and HERE.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Intelligent Design or Beneficial Accidents?

Intelligent Design or Beneficial Accidents?
An atheist once said, “We are as much a product of blind forces as is the falling of a stone to earth or the ebb and flow of the tides. We have just happened, and man was made flesh by a long series of singularly beneficial accidents.” The other view is that we are the result of design and planning. Do you consider yourself the result of intelligent design or beneficial accidents?

C. S. Lewis, an atheist who became a believer, wrote, “If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our thought processes are mere accidents—the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the materialists’ and astronomers’ as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts—i.e., of Materialism and Astronomy—are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident would be able to give correct account of all the other accidents.”

We suggest that you ask yourself this question: “Can I rationally believe that the incredible complexity of my body is the result of mindless forces, or does it indicate design?” If our thoughts are merely accidental byproducts of the movement of atoms in a brain that accidentally assembled itself, then nothing has any real meaning.

At DOES GOD EXIST? we believe that we are not accidents. The human body exhibits evidence of design, not chance accidents. Our thoughts are rational because we are the product of a rational God. Intelligent design or beneficial accidents — which do you choose?
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Grand Canyon Formation

Grand Canyon Formation
As we told you before, this is the week of the 2018 Canyonlands Tour. We mentioned the plaque at the Grand Canyon watchtower with the verse from Psalms. Today, we would like to share with you a video segment from a previous field trip to the Grand Canyon. In the video, geologist and teacher John Clayton uses the diagram shown above as he describes the layers of the Canyon and the various processes that formed them. The Grand Canyon formation processes are complex and involve God’s work over a vast span of time.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Evidence from Cosmology

Evidence from Cosmology
One of the most compelling arguments for the existence of God is the basic question of creation itself. In our materials, we make an elementary and easy to understand presentation that there was a beginning, that the beginning was caused, and that the cause was a personal intelligence. We show that the cosmos was created with purpose and intelligence that can be seen by a careful study of the evidence of design that is all around us. This is evidence from cosmology.

Since our presentation is at an elementary level, many times we receive questions which express a desire for more in-depth explanations. One of the best articles that we have seen on the evidence from cosmology was published in the September 2018 issue of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith which is the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (Volume 70 #3 pages 147-160). The title of the article is “The Fine-Tuning of the Universe: Evidence for the Existence of God?” It was written by Walter L. Bradley Ph.D. from Texas A & M and Baylor Universities.

The article is a technical analysis of the evidence from cosmology and concludes with: “The nature of nature, especially fine-tuning, provides clear and compelling evidence for our all-powerful, loving Creator God, who can be seen through ‘the things that have been made, so those who do not believe are without excuse’” (Romans 1:20).

The article is available on the ASA website www.asa3.org at THIS LINK. You can also reach them at American Scientific Affiliation, 218 Boston Street Suite 208, Topsfield, MA 01983, phone 978-887-8833.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Canyonlands Tour 2018

Canyonlands Tour 2018

This week John Clayton is with a group of people on what we call the Canyonlands Tour. Many times over the years John has taken groups of people to visit the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion Canyon, as well as other locations in northern Arizona and southern Utah.

The Canyonlands Tour is not just a sightseeing trip. It’s an opportunity for Christians to learn about how God has worked to create those “natural wonders.” John uses his knowledge of geology to explain the many interesting and beautiful features of the “canyonlands” area. Some people try to explain the Grand Canyon by “flood geology.” John explains what the real science of geology actually tells us about the formation of that remarkable Canyon.

With the assistance of Alan Doty who has hiked the canyons many times, the Canyonlands Tour is always an interesting and educational experience. One of the places on the agenda is the “desert view” area overlooking the Canyon. That is the location of a watchtower which visitors can tour.

On a level of the tower, there is a wall which has a plaque attached as you can see in the picture. The plaque contains the words from Psalm 66:4. It says, “All the earth worships Thee; they sing praises to Thee, sing praises to Thy name.” That plaque has been there for years. With atheists demanding the removal of any acknowledgment of God on public property, perhaps the only reason those words are still there is that some might interpret the “Thee” and “Thy” as referring to the Grand Canyon.

However, those pronouns do not refer to the Canyon, but to the One who created it. The process of creating the Canyon was no small feat. It did not happen in one flood. The people on the Canyonlands Tour will learn something about the processes that science still does not fully understand. In the meantime, there are those who say the Grand Canyon disproves God. It does not. It only invalidates a false interpretation of the Bible which many have adopted.

It’s too bad the people who placed that plaque didn’t include verse 3 as well. It says, “Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you'” (NIV). I am sure that there have been some atheists who have cringed when they read the words of that plaque. I suspect that sometime an “offended” atheist will demand its removal. However, nobody can remove the Grand Canyon and the testimony it gives to the power and glory of God.
–Roland Earnst © 2018